Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Source of Harang's Struggles?

Well, it was another surprisingly ineffective performance for Reds' workhorse starter Aaron Harang. Harang is usually Mr. Dependable. "Steady like a train, sharp like a razor." Unfortunately, that just hasn't been the case this season.

Harang continued his lackluster performance in his start against the Chicago Cubs tonight. Harang toed the slab in Wrigley Field, but didn't find the confines to be so friendly. The Cubs touched up Harang for 6 earned runs in 4.1 innings, which brought Harang's ERA up to a disturbing 4.76. Perhaps even more disturbing are the 7 walks allowed by Harang, who is usually very stingy with the free passes.

Clearly, something isn't right with Harang, but what could it be?

Mix of Pitches

In 2007, Harang was his usual successful self. He posted a 3.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and an 8.5 K/9.

To achieve those results, Harang utilized the following mix of pitches:

Fastball: 69.1% (90.1 MPH)
Slider: 19.5% (82.7 MPH)
Curveball: 4.5% (75.1 MPH)
Changeup: 6.0% (82.2 MPH)

So far in 2008, Harang has posted a 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and 7.9 K/9. To get those results, he has used the following mix of pitches:

Fastball: 70.7% (89.8 MPH)
Silder: 24.2% (81.2 MPH)
Curveball: 2.4% (75.3 MPH)
Changeup: 2.6% (81.5 MPH)

So, in 2008, he is throwing more fastballs and sliders. He has become even more of a two pitch pitcher, which can't be helping his cause. In addition, his fastball and slider velocity are both down a tick.

Unfortunately, Harang is also getting fewer groundballs, as his GB/FB ratio has dropped from 1.00 in 2007 to 0.77 in 2008.

The Cause of it all: The Relief Stint?

While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly WHY Harang has struggled, it's fairly obvious WHEN his struggles started.

On May 25th, the Reds were in San Diego. The game ultimately went a full 18 innings, meaning the Reds played the equivalent of two full baseball games. In that game, the Reds used 10 pitchers. Starter Matt Belisle worked only 4.1 innings pitched and Aaron Harang was the 9th pitcher to enter the game and worked 4.0 innings on two days rest.

In the game, Harang was very effective. He struck out 9 batters and allowed only 1 walk and 2 hits. While the encroaching shadows created by the late afternoon sun undoubtedly help, Harang was effective enough to work almost as many innings as the Reds' starting pitcher. Harang's heroics extended the game, but it was all for nothing as the Reds ultimately lost in the 18th inning.

While Harang was tremendous that day, it's clear that he hasn't been the same since. Prior to the May 25th game, Harang had an ERA of 3.50 and had made 11 starts. In those 11 starts, Harang had allowed 3 runs or fewer 8 times. In those 11 starts, he had pitched 6.0 innings or more 10 times.

After the May 25th relief appearance on short rest, Harang has made 8 starts and now has an ERA of 4.76. In those 8 starts, Harang has allowed 3 runs or fewer only 3 times. In those 11 starts, he pitched 6.0 innings or more only 3 times.

Just How Bad Has Harang Been?

In the 44.1 innings he has pitched since his ill-fated relief stint, Harang has allowed 36 earned runs!!! That makes for a whopping 7.31 ERA!!! The Reds one time ace has clearly fallen on hard times and it's not difficult to fathom what needs to happen. The Reds either need to adjust the rotation before and after the All-Star break to ensure that Harang gets the maximum amount of rest possible between starts. Or, they simply need to place him on the DL to give him time to recover and re-energize. If the Reds are going to be competitive any time soon, they'll need a healthy and effective Aaron Harang, so they need to do right by him now.

This season is clearly slipping away, but having a healthy Harang would help the Reds on the field and help the fans maintain their sanity in what is looking like yet another lost season.

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